Human Geography: Places and Regions in Global Context, 5e
Chapter 4: Nature and SocietyPaul L. Knox & Sallie A. MarstonPowerPoint Author: Keith M. Bell
OverviewThis chapter focuses on the relationship between human beings and their environment, with technology as a mediating force between them. An important point is that the environment, as nature, must be viewed as a social concept or construction as well as the physical universe. As a social construction, the idea or interpretation of nature may vary across different cultures and societal groups. Moreover, this understanding of nature may change over time. Students should be aware that the Western understanding of nature, largely derived from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, is only one of many possible ways of understanding and making sense of nature.The remainder of the chapter traces the interaction between society and nature in selected cultures. The chapter looks at the transformation of the environment by early humans, before turning to more recent interactions. Among the most influential of these was the Columbian Exchange, or interaction between the Americas and the other continents as part of the conquest and settlement of the Americas by Europeans. Human actions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have had an even greater impact on the environment than did events of previous centuries. The latter part of the chapter explores recent environmental problems and their links to the process of globalization. Students should remember that with the process of globalization, environmental impacts and problems also become global in scope.
The objectives of this chapter are to: Understand nature as a concept Investigate Earths transformation by ancient
humans Explore European expansion and
globalization Examine recent environmental change
through human action
Chapter Outline Nature as a Concept (p. 128)
Rachel Carson and the birth of modern environmentalism
Nature is partially a social construction
Cultural ecology and political ecology
U.S. environmental philosophies Origins of the concept of nature
The Transformation of Earth by Ancient Humans (p. 139) Paleolithic impacts Neolithic peoples and
domestication Early settlements and their
European Expansion and Globalization (p. 144) Disease and depopulation in the
Spanish colonies The Columbian Exchange
Human Action and Recent Environmental Change (p. 148) Environmental problems deriving
from burning of fuels Environmental problems deriving
from land-clearing The Globalization of the
Environment (p. 163) Environmental politics and political
organization Environmental sustainability
Conclusion (p. 169)
Geography Matters 4.1 Geography MattersCultural Ecology
and Political Ecology (p. 136) Latin American and American Southwest examples of
these two approaches 4.2 Window on the WorldPeak Oil (p. 152)
Peak Oil theory and the rate of global petroleum depletion
4.3 Geography MattersGlobal Climate Change (p. 164) Global Climate Change as an international issue, and
Nature and SocietyNature and Society constitute a
complex relationship. Nature is both a physical realm and a social creation.
The most prominent view of nature in Western culture is derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is
founded on a belief that humans should dominate nature.
The early human history included people who revered nature, as well as
those who abused it.
Urbanization and industrialization have had extremely degrading impacts on
Globalization of the political economy has meant that environmental problems
are global in scope.
Sustainability has become a predominant way of approaching
global economic development and environmental change.
Nature as a Concept2002 Earth Summit Deformities in frogs
One model of the naturesociety relation is that nature limits or shapes society, called environmental determinism. Another model posits that society also shapes and controls nature, which in itself is a very complex relationship.
Nature and Society Defined Nature is a social creation as much as it is the
physical universe that includes human beings. Society is the sum of the inventions, institutions, and
relationships created and reproduced by human beings across place and time.
Technology is: Physical objects or artifacts Activities or processes Knowledge or know-how
Global Emissionsof Carbon Dioxide
Each square represents one years global emissions of carbon dioxide, measured by the weight of carbon it
Industrial countries have higher carbon dioxide emissions,
contributing to rising temperatures through the trapping of heat in Earths
The rural poor are often impelled to degrade their immediate environment
by cutting forests for fuel wood, plants which would otherwise take in
carbon dioxide and cool Earths surface.
Thus, both the core and the periphery are contributing to the problem of
global climate change.
Generalized AquaticFood Chain
This illustration of the food chain in a Long Island estuary
demonstrates the nineteenth-century naturalists view.
Although most ecosystems have complex food chains
containing numerous relationships among the
different parts, one rule holds for all:
The higher the entity is in a food chain, the fewer there are
Nature and Society DefinedThe Dong Family: Urban setting
The Cuis Family: WeitaiVillage
The I = P A T formula relates human population pressures on environmental resources to the level of affluence and the access to technology in a society. Compare these families level of affluence. Whose meal traveled the farthest to get to their table? How far does your food travel to get to you?
Cultural Ecology and Political Ecology
The cultural ecology approach incorporates three key points: Cultural groups and the
environment are interconnected by systemic interrelationships.
Cultural behavior is examined as a function of the cultural groups relationship to the environment through both material and nonmaterial cultural elements.
Most studies in cultural ecology investigate food production in rural and agricultural settings in the periphery in order to understand how change affects the relationship between cultural groups and the environment.
West Nile Virus in CaliforniaThe relationship between people and the environments they create (e.g., an abandoned pool) that encourage the proliferation of mosquitoes explains the Ecology part of political ecology. But the political part is also important.
U.S. Environmental Philosophiesand Political Views of Nature
Henry David Thoreau Walden; often credited as the
originator of U.S. ecological philosophy
Ralph Waldo Emerson Transcendentalism
George Perkins Marsh Man and Nature, or Physical
Geography as Modified by Human Action
Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt
Rachel Carson Silent Spring
U.S. Political Views of Nature Conservation and
Preservation Ecoterrorism Environmental Ethics Ecofeminism
Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental activist (photo)
Deep Ecology Environmental Justice
Paleolithic ImpactsClovis Points: New Mexico, United States
Cave Paintings: Southern France
The Settlement of the World
Early Stone Age people constantly moved over great distances (hunting and foraging for food), which ultimately made them a dispersed species. The map depicts over one million years of migration and potential settlement.
Neolithic Peoples and Domestication
Massive animal kills Wheat and flint sickle blade
The credit for the development of agriculturea technological triumph with respect to naturegoes to the Neolithic (or late Stone Age) peoples and occurred about 10,000 years ago.
Irrigation System Near El Centro, Southern California
Poorly informed management may have led to the demise of the ancient Mesopotamian cities, but increasingly saline soils also currently plague agriculture in California and southwestern Arizona. Siltation and deforestation have been problematic for a substantial portion of human agricultural history.
European Voyages of Exploration
This map shows the voyages and missions of Columbus, Pizarro, Cabral, and Corts. Columbus contact with the Americas became a watershed historic event, forever changing the world.
Population Growth and Environmental Change
Exponential population growth, coupled with environmental modification (such as this pottery furnace in China), have stressed ecosystems. E. O. Wilson created the HIPPO acronym to describe the loss of biological diversity and extinction: Habitat destruction, Invasive species, Pollution, Population, and Overharvesting. (Source: The Future of Life)
The Impact of Energy Needs on the Environment
Coal mining A tanker oil spill
From mountain-top mining in West Virginia to Gulf War oil well fires in Kuwait, nuclear waste disposal in Novaya Zemlya to global warming, our desire for industrial fuels is having a dramatic impact on the planet.
Disease and Depopulation inSpanish Colonies
Little disagreement exists among historians that European colonization of the New World was eventually responsible for the greatest loss of human life in history. Virgin soil epidemics: w